Kindergarteners Do Answer Questions

Recently, “06880” posed a question the Board of Education needed answering:  When was kindergarten first offered in the Westport public schools?

Plenty of readers posted answers online, with recollections dating back to 1941.

But that’s not the half of it.

According to Jennifer Robson, administrative assistant to the superintendent, additional sleuthing in the Town Hall vaults showed records of 4- and 5-year-olds being educated as far back as the late 1800s.

In 1916 — the 1st year that record books actually describe children by grade (not just age) — the Bridge Street School (predecessor to the original Saugatuck Elementary School, on [duh] Bridge Street) had a “sub-primary grade,” filled with 4- and 5- year-olds.

By 1918, there were 26 students in what the Bridge Street School actually called “kindergarten.”

Student rosters read like a hit parade of old time Westport names: DeMatttio, Gilbertie, Saponare, Valiante, Tedesco, Cribari, DeFeo, Fiore and Zeoli, among others.

Youngsters at the Bridge Street School, around 1915. Recognize any relatives?

Jennifer says that the other schools in town did not appear to have kindergarten at that point.  They also enrolled far fewer students than the Bridge Street School.

“They seemed to run more like country schoolhouses,” Jennifer notes, “with perhaps 30 students total, spread through grades 1-5.”

What are your recollections of your early school days in Westport?  Click “Comments” to respond.  Let’s limit this one to elementary schools, with no tangents into No Child Left Behind, Obama’s education policy, or anything else please!

22 responses to “Kindergarteners Do Answer Questions

  1. My dad photographed the Hillspoint Elementary pictures. Some of them are posted on Facebook.

  2. Barbara Wanamaker

    I remember a class called “junior primary” at Saugatuck.

  3. Loretta Hallock

    The little girl second row on the right is my Mother Elizabeth Capassee Santella. She often told me about the one-room school house and her teacher Miss Adams. She was born June 15, 1907 on Franklin Street in Saugatuck.
    Loretta Santella Hallock

  4. i was in the first kindergarten class at Hillspoint El, but we had to start the year at Saugatuck. Something about a problem with the glass doors.

    My favorite memories were of playing knockdowns and closeys with baseball cards around one side of the building.

    I thought Bob Satter took all the Hillspoint Elementary class photographs. I’ve still got my complete set through fifth grade.

    • The problem was that the high glass windows fell into classrooms. All the 2nd graders who had left Burr Farms for Hillspoint returned to BF, until the problem was resolved.

  5. The Dude Abides

    My second grade teacher at Coleytown Elementary (’52) was Ms. Small and soon to become Coach Paul Lane’s wife. I just learned that from the good Coach and thought it tremendously cool. They also had a woman principal (which my feminist educator Mom thought was very cool) at Coleytown. I learned the hard way that female principals could be just as strict as their gender-opposite counterparts.

  6. Dude and Loretta, you both might enjoy the following excerpt from the Staples Tuition Grants (STG) Named Award Profiles booklet that the ever-supportive Dan Woog helped produce in June for STG (which provides college tuition assistance to SHS seniors and graduates with demonstrated financial need). Last winter STG, with Dan, researched and wrote up a small biography on each of the Named Awards it currently grants in an effort to capture their history. SInce STG has been in operation since 1943 (begun with a $100 donation from the SHS PTA and supported today with endowed awards and the very generous people who donate in our annual appeals) these profiles provide an interesting perspective on the many people and organizations that have impacted our town. One such award, is the Dorothy R. Adams Award:

    Dorothy R. Adams: Dorothy Adams was a beloved teacher and principal at the wooden Bridge Street School and its later brick incarnation, Saugatuck Elementary. She retired in1952 and is still remembered as a common-sense educator, sympathetic to kids in need. A disciplinarian with a desire to find the best in each student, her stay-after-school punishment often ended positively-sometimes even with stamp trading, as she was an avid philatelist. She came by her educational roots naturally. Her grandfather, Ebenezer Banks Adams operated Adams Academy for 30 years, starting in 1837, on Morningside Drive North.

    We have Robert Gault, a former student of Ms. Adams, to thank for the color and flavor he put to this biography.

    Regarding the female principal at Coleytown that the Dude mentions. That must be Lillian Odell and here is the excerpt for the Lillian Odell Scholarship Award:

    Lillian Odell: Lillian Odell was a long-time educator in Westport and the first principal of Coleytown Elementary School, when it opened in 1953.

    Unfortunately we had a lot of dead ends regarding Ms. Odell and this was as much as we could verify. So, if anyone out there, digging back into their kindergarten memories has anything to add, we’d love to have it and can be reached directly at info@staplestuitiongrants.org

    Thanks!

    PS I entered kindergarten in the fall of 1966 at Bedford El. I guess the building was overcrowded because my kindergarten class with Mrs. Sametz was held at Saugatuck Congregational Church.

    • Anne,
      Do you remember a private pre-school on Treadwell Ave? Bolton School

      • I grew up on Treadwell Avenue in the 1950s-60s. The Bolton School was about halfway up the hill on the right, almost directly across the street from the house where the Espositos lived, whose son, Frankie, would grow up to be mayor of Norwalk.

        • Linda Gramatky Smith

          Are you thinking of Mrs. Bolton’s School for Girls? It was started in 1926, I think, and was known as The Bolton School. It was located first on Church Lane and then on Ludlow, and then moved in 1929 to the corner of Wilton Road (Route 33) and Kings Highway where The Willows medical center (AKA Fort Apache) is located. My favorite babysitter, Linda Lockwood, graduated from there. It remained there until 1957 when it because known as The Kathleen Laycock Country Day School. It became incorporated and moved in 1959 to Beachside Avenue where it became Greens Farms Academy. I’m sure there was a school on Treadwell, but it wasn’t what we knew as The Bolton School.

      • Pete, I went to Bolton Nursery school in the 1969 and 1970. I certainly remember it.

    • Loretta Hallock

      Thanks

  7. The Dude Abides

    Thank you Anne for your input. I do now remember Ms. Odell’s name but was somewhat surprised that Coleytown did not open until ’53. I was sure it was second grade for me which would have been ’52. I might add that Katherine Budner and my mother formed the Hitchcock Nursery School in the 50’s to a welcome reception of many preschoolers including our current state represenative, Jonathan Steinberg.

  8. Dude, perhaps Jennifer Robson can confirm when Coleytown El opened its doors? Pete, sorry, I’ve never heard of the Bolton School.

  9. Bolton School was on the river, I think just north of where Fort Apache is now. It was a small girls school, and I believe it was K thru 12th grade. Miss Bolton’s sister Kathleen Laycock took over the school and moved it (as Laycock Country Day School) to the old Vanderbuilt estate on Beachside Ave, in the early 60s. In the mid- to late-60s, it was renamed Greens Farms Academy and went co-ed.

    • Linda Gramatky Smith

      Holly, thanks for this info. When I wrote my comment (above), I hadn’t seen the rest of the comments with your info yet. Wonder what the private school on Treadwell was called.

  10. Virginia Gilbertie

    My brother and sister went to the school at Assumption Church on Riverside Avenue in the early 1950’s. There were five Gilberties in the same grade, which took up only one classroom. Apparently the two girls behaved, but the three boys got many ruler strikes to their knuckles. The nuns were very strict, which encouraged the boys even more.

    I went to Bedford Elementary, which is now town hall. The town decided to close it in 1973, when I was in 5th grade. The parents mounted a protest, and sold sweatshirts that said “Save Bedford El.” After they closed the school I went to Kings Highway for 6th grade and I wore that sweatshirt as often as I could as a form of silent protest. We loved Bedford El. It was a great community and the teachers were as caring as could be.